Andira inermis

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Andira inermis
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Andira inermis slash
© Joris de Wolf, Patrick Van Damme, Diego Van Meersschaut

Andira inermis is a deciduous tree up to 15(-35) m tall, bole usually short, straight and cylindrical, up to 50(-100) cm in diameter. Crown columnar or pyramidal to spreading; bark fissured and scaly, with an unpleasant cabbage-like smell. Trunk frequently forms buttresses up to 3 m tall.

Leaves alternate, imparipinnate, 15-40 cm long, with 7-17 leaflets, bright tan when young and shiny green when mature, margins entire.

Flowers in much-branched panicles of 16-60 cm long; calyx bell-shaped, 3-5 mm long, purplish, with 5 small teeth; corolla 12-15 mm long, deep pink to purplish-red. 

Fruit a pod, 1-seed, fleshy outside, hard within, 4-8 cm x 3-5 cm.

Ecology

A. inermis grows in a wide range of habitats from evergreen tropical rain forest to dry savanna vegetation, on well-drained sandy soils as well as on poorly drained clay soils, in plains and on hill slopes. It is found in riparian zones, along rivers and in areas with a high water table. It grows in alluvial forests in Central America but may be found in drier areas. It is found along roadsides, riverbanks, woodlands and pastures, from sea level to 900 m above sea level.

Native range
Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico

Tree management

It requires low light for establishment and more light for development. In the field, little or no management is necessary. Occasionally lower branches are pruned to induce faster growth and a straight trunk. In landscaping, top branches are pruned to control height growth.

Mature fruits are collected and kept under cool conditions. The hard seeds need to be scarified before planting, making a cut on the hard fruit endocarp with a file and then planting them in seed beds or plastic bags is recommended. Seeds start to germinate at week 5 and maximum germination is observed at week 16. Germination rate is 43%-56%.

A. inermis grows in a wide range of habitats from evergreen tropical rain forest to dry savanna vegetation, on well-drained sandy soils as well as on poorly drained clay soils, in plains and on hill slopes. It is found in riparian zones, along rivers and in areas with a high water table. It grows in alluvial forests in Central America but may be found in drier areas. It is found along roadsides, riverbanks, woodlands and pastures, from sea level to 900 m above sea level.

A. inermis can be sown directly. 2-3 seeds, per site, are planted directly in the field. 1-year-old plants 50 cm tall or more can be transplanted during the rainy season.

Poison:  Bark and seeds are reported to be poisonous. A. inermis is a tree traditionally providing insecticide and piscicide.

Erosion control: In conservation programmes, it has been used to restore degraded watersheds where moist conditions are prevalent.

 In Africa, a decoction of the leaves is used as beverage and the fruits are eaten

 Preliminary studies at the University of El Salvador have shown that the foliage is edible and palatable for ruminants.

Apiculture:  The tree is regarded as a good source of nectar.

Prunings from shade trees in coffee plantations are used as firewood.

Timber: The wood is very hard, heavy (0.77g/cm³), and very resistant to attack by fungi and termites. Andira inermis lumber has been used for bridges, railroad tracks and waterfront docks and also to make poles, furniture, billiard-cues, umbrella handles and boats.

Shade or shelter: It is used as a shade tree in coffee plantations because it has a spreading crown and responds well to pruning. It has also been suggested as a windbreak in Malaysia due to its low branching.

Medicine: The bark is used as a vermifuge, seeds are purgative and have narcotic properties. A leaf decoction is used for washing in Africa. 

Nitrogen fixing:  The tree is nitrogen fixing.

Ornamental: Planted in parks and yards, Andira inermis is a very attractive tree with a dense, spreading crown, showy pink flowers and bright colored leaves.